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Multi-Stakeholder Taskforce Needed to Plan for Copper Switch Off

Full fibre broadband network operator, SIRO, has called for an integrated, joined-up approach to the forthcoming process of copper broadband switch off. The overall approach must ensure that the hundreds of thousands of individuals and businesses, still dependent on copper devices, experience minimal disruption during the transition to fibre broadband.

Copper switch off is where the decades old copper broadband network will be shut down with homes and businesses migrated to full fibre broadband as part of the process.

At end 2023, the telecommunications regulator, Comreg, approved the conditions for copper switch off, subject to several provisions, with this process expected to begin shortly. In addition, the European Commission recently published a consultation where it marked 2030 as its preferred deadline by which all copper networks across the EU would switch off.  Ireland will also be required meet this date for the end of copper broadband.

An analysis by SIRO has identified that many everyday devices used by homes and businesses remain dependent on copper broadband to function. These devices will all be impacted by the switch off process. Devices include house and security alarms, medical and security monitors, lifts, landline and emergency phones, car park barriers or retail point of sale terminals.

While the full quantum of individuals and businesses and their devices impacted have yet to be complied, there is existing data on some which highlight the extent of the issue.

Examples include:

  • Burglar Alarms: Industry research has found half of Irish homes have burglar alarms (49%), a majority which still use copper technology. This means up to one million homes need to update their house alarms to fibre or mobile technology in the years ahead.
  • Seniors Alarm Scheme: These monitored alarms are provided to senior and vulnerable individuals across Ireland to allow them to continue to live independently in their homes. Since 2015, 106,000 senior personal security alarms (approx. 15,000 additional per annum) have been provided to individuals – the overwhelmingly majority of which remain tied to copper landlines.
  • SME’s continuing copper dependency: Recent research commissioned by SIRO found that more than half of all Irish businesses remain dependent on a copper broadband connection, with micro businesses (1-10 employees) most likely to be using outdated technology.

To increase awareness of full fibre broadband, SIRO this month has kicked off a nationwide campaign, Fibre First, promoting the benefits of fibre broadband and featuring star of Derry Girls, Siobhán McSweeney.

SIRO Chief Commercial Officer, Ronan Whelan noted:

That we are now on the cusp of starting to switch off slow, outdated copper broadband is hugely positive. It shows the huge and ongoing progress, over the last decade, in rolling out full fibre broadband across Ireland.

“The process of transitioning away from copper broadband will take place over several years but it will impact hundreds of thousands of householders and businesses. As a result, it’s vital we start preparing for it now, particularly to ensure minimal end user disruption.

“A Stakeholder Taskforce is needed to quantify the scale of the transition; plan what needs to happen; and, to implement and publicly communicate these changes in an ordered and coordinated way to those impacted.

“As a country we need to be in solutions mode to ensure this change is planned and supported across a range of end user touch points such as, for example, keeping existing landline numbers or continuity of service on monitored health devices.

“The Taskforce must include not just the telecoms industry and Government, but all wider stakeholders such security and alarm, retail and business, health and community group representatives,” added Mr Whelan.

For more information on the copper switch off, visit our dedicated page here.